Wyoming Game and Fish Department continues conservation monitoring effortsWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Cheyenne – According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), over 800 species of wildlife can be found within the state, not counting plants or terrestrial invertebrates. Upholding federal guidelines for State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs), WGFD maintains a list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).
“An SGCN classification does not indicate that these species are a federal concern. They are species of state concern, so we make sure we gather enough information that they are not federally listed,” noted Scott Smith, deputy chief of WGFD Wildlife Division, at the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting in Cheyenne on Jan. 29.
Species are designated with a Native Species Status (NSS) through a matrix, which evaluates population status and habitat variables. Depending on their designation, individual species are ranked within the continuum of conservation concern.
When there is not enough data to place a species on the matrix, it is designated as NSSU, or Native Species Status Unknown.
At the November Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting, 11 species were brought to the Commissioners’ attention for review in regards to SGCN classification.
“Basically, in most every case, we need more information to assess population trends and species densities and to more accurately identify habitat risks,” Smith noted of those 11 species.
Specifically, more information is needed concerning bird populations in the state of Wyoming.
“For example, WGFD needs to keep an eye on the Clark’s nutcracker because of extensive conifer mortality. With habitat changing for that species and large acreages of dead and dying conifer, we need to determine what that means for the Clark’s nutcracker within the state,” he explained.
Golden eagles, red crossbills, American kestrels, canyon wrens, common nighthawks and common yellowthroats are other birds WGFD has deemed in need of further research.
“We also have white-tailed prairie dog, black-tailed prairie dog and Preble’s jumping mouse on the list,” he added.
Should species be designated with SGCN classifications of great concern, there is the potential for the state to receive federal grant money for further investigation into species data and conservation research.
“Since we met in November, WGFD has also asked our field managers to critically evaluate waterfowl species that we typically hunt,” Smith continued.
The field managers determined that five of those waterfowl species warrant a new classification, and the birds were re-ranked at NSS Five, meaning that they are not currently considered species of concern in Wyoming.
“At this time, we believe that the populations are stable to slightly increasing,” he remarked. “We’ve reduced the list from 85 to 80 for our avian species now. There are now 80 avian species on the SGCN list.”
Barrow’s goldeneye, canvasback, lesser scaup, northern pintail and Greater Sandhill crane species were all designated with NSS Five by WGFD officials.
“Our folks are continuing to work on the SWAPs, and in November of this year, we will bring a draft management plan for these sensitive species,” Smith concluded.